Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Diversity in Science--What's your story?

My ecology class at UC Merced--diverse and fun group, 2015, Yosemite NP
 

If you belong to almost any organization in the United States, topics for discussion this spring and summer have focused on the pandemic and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues. The pandemic is new; the issues with inequality and injustice for some have been around for a very long time. Today they are front and center.

 

Many scientists spend their days hotly in pursuit of new knowledge. Some never think further than their own work; others consider their work’s importance and relevance in the world at large. Now, we are asked to pay attention to—and do something about—the lack of diversity in many fields of science, the inequity that comes from being judged by peers and others, and being left out of those important meetings and conversations that allow some to get ahead, leaving others behind.

 

Last week, I learned that the University of California was requiring all new hires (if we had any given the pandemic) to submit a diversity statement. I wrote one in 2012 when I applied to UC Merced. Coming from a small, exclusive place like the Carnegie that hired rarely, I didn’t have that much to write about. In almost 8 years at University of California, I’ve had much more experience, which is described below.

 

What’s important for all of us science folk to consider is how we conduct ourselves and how we’re furthering DEI solutions, rather than creating problems. This is a very personal path. Some increase DEI by being who they are—Black, LatinX, female. Others—white males—need to show that they are aware, not part of the problem, and working actively to promote DEI however they can.

 

In Northern Canada working with Inuit crew, 2010

I believe it is a matter of time before the Diversity Statement becomes part of the tenure and promotion package at universities. So, for those starting their careers, sharpen your word skills and give the Diversity Statement a whirl.

Can you fill a page? Is it fluff or real statements?

 

If the statement is a bunch of fluff, what can you do to improve the scientific endeavor by promoting a more just, diverse lab group or field of science?


The time to start on your own personal reflection is now. And the time to put thoughts into action should be in your yearly plan. My statement is below. As a retired professor I’ve taken on a position as Equity Advisor—meaning fairness and justice, not investments or stocks. My job is to listen, and I’ve been told that problems will “find me.” I’ll give it my best shot and hope you will too.

 

Diversity Statement: Marilyn L. Fogel

 

I am an extremely privileged white woman—distinguished professor at a top university with secure finances and loving, supportive family and friends. I didn’t land in this position without a long and winding journey that started as a female in the male-dominated world of science in the early 1970s. I was engrossed in my work, and not until I began to feel the effects of subtle discrimination did I open my eyes to what women had been facing in academia since they were first allowed to participate. Back then, I lived from small paycheck to small paycheck. The journey prepared me for where I am today—at a position to help others enter academic science life, succeed at it, and stand up for those who need a voice or a gentle nudge to get what they deserve.

 

By the time I fully embraced how I might contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in science, I lived through being the only female in my department (i.e., no diversity), one with a lower salary (i.e., no equity), and sometimes not included in important opportunities. My work helping others navigate through DEI issues began with one-on-one relationships, often with young women just starting out as grad students or postdocs, perhaps a person on the staff who was being bullied, or a peer who needed to talk through a difficult personal issue. I also served as unofficial and official mentor of women scientists from around the world through interactions with the Earth Science Women’s Network, Isogeochem listserve, NSF’s Geobiology and Low Temperature Geochemistry program, and the Association for Women in Earth Science.

           

I developed my voice.

 

I spoke up for myself and for others. At the Carnegie Institution, I formed a women’s network to listen to stories of sexual discrimination and harassment and to provide support for one another. I challenged hiring practices, treatment of subordinates, and micro aggressions. The outgrowth of the network was revamping Carnegie’s discrimination policy and mandatory sexual harassment training. I had a much greater opportunity to support DEI activities when I went to the University of California at Merced. As a department chair, I guided faculty to consider diversity in hiring, equity in lab spaces, and inclusion for those seemingly at the fringes. Of the six faculty hired in three years, three were women; one of the men, LatinX; another, a spousal hire that allowed a couple to support their family and both have good jobs. I negotiated a retention package for two Black faculty and mentored another faculty member, who’d been given a poor startup package, to a successful tenure and promotion.

 

James Scott- Carnegie scientist and Dartmouth professor

           

In 2016, I entered a new demographic—someone with a disability—and learned quickly and first hand--the challenges that one in five people in the United States face. Although privileged, it took dogged determination to gain the accommodations I needed to successfully do my job as a professor. I studied the laws and learned my rights. Today, I serve as the Equity Advisor for the University of California Riverside representing the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. I hope to provide assistance to students, staff, and faculty for hiring and retaining a diverse community and to look out for subtle discrimination with respect to physical and emotional disabilities. UC Riverside has one of the most diverse student bodies of all the UC campuses, yet its faculty are still primarily white—and mostly men. In my own laboratory, I’ve hired a diverse team of students, postdocs, staff, and researchers, but could be doing more. I’m looking forward to engaging in whatever pops up in my new role as Equity Advisor and will be learning as I go on how to promote, in its widest sense, diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

 

 

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